Anticipating autumn's bounty of cooler weather, glorious sunshine and majestic foliage also brings sadness to my heart, knowing the suffering about to be inflicted by Maryland's bow hunters on our deer starting Friday and continuing through January.
In the 2006-2007 season, bow hunters reported killing 21,991 deer in Maryland. But how many deer got away wounded, left to run around in the woods with arrows sticking in them, or to die a slow and agonizing death days or weeks later? Well-documented studies testify that wounding and suffering happen time and again when the bow is the weapon of choice.
Even former Sun outdoor sports columnist Bill Burton has stated that bow hunting does not support clean kills. He wrote in his Maryland Deer Hunting Guide, "By necessity, most bowmen have become adept at tracking cripples - they have no choice. Seldom do their deer drop in their tracks."
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommends waiting at least an hour after a deer is shot with an arrow and runs off. If the deer was hit outside the heart or lungs, the hunter should wait four to six hours before attempting to track it.
All the while, the animal suffers. Many are never found.
As veterinarian Steve Nusbaum has written: "The presence of the same neurochemicals in deer as in humans similarly demands that they feel pain as we do." Imagine the pain of walking around in the woods for weeks on end with an arrow sticking out of your side or your head.
Nevertheless, Maryland's hunters - a mere 3 percent to 4 percent of the state's population - hold the purse strings, the votes and the political clout inside the Department of Natural Resources and the state legislature when it comes to killing our deer, including hunting on Sundays. Hunting license fees - not your tax dollars - provide most funding for the DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Division, the agency overseeing hunting and deer management in Maryland.
The bow hunters' voices are heard through lobby-type groups such as the Maryland Sportsmen's Association, which calls itself the "sportsmen's voice in Annapolis," and the Maryland Bowhunters Society. These groups can wield their collective political clout in our legislature through the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus.
Dying and wounded deer, on the other hand, have no money or votes to offer, and thus no political clout to wield. All they get is suffering cloaked as sport and recreation for hunters.
As a nonhunter, I am the lone voice opposing bow hunting on DNR's nine-member Wildlife Advisory Commission. The eight other hunters and farmers serving on the commission always outvote me when I stand up for the deer. Yet few people on the animals' side know the Wildlife Advisory Commission exists.
Let's put this tragic little secret of autumn behind us forever by ending bow hunting in Maryland.
E. Joseph Lamp, a commissioner of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Advisory Commission, is a professor at Anne Arundel Community College. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.